Retiree Profile: Dr. Marlene MalcolmApril 30, 2023
Looking back on her 1199 membership spurs retiree to Union activism.
“I came to this country as a single mother with a young boy in 1991,” says Dr. Marlene Malcolm, a Jamaican immigrant to New York who started working as an 1199 Pharmacy Technician at Montefiore Medical Center upon her arrival.
“I had to work to keep us with enough food and shelter,” Dr. Malcom adds. “But I also knew I had to go to school if I was going to do better. My life was work, raising my son and taking classes.
1199 programs paid for a lot of my education—and for that I am eternally grateful.”
After retiring last year and settling in the Atlanta suburb of McDonough, Georgia—Dr.
Malcom decided it was time to give back—she’s been working with the Union’s sizable chapter of Atlanta area alums ever since.
This February, Dr. Malcom joined the roughly 100 Union retirees who took 1199-chartered buses from Atlanta to Montgomery, Alabama for a Civil Rights Black History Month tour. The group visited the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, the Civil Rights Memorial Center, the Rosa Parks Museum, and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice— the stark, monumental shrine that names and mourns thousands of American lynching victims.
“It made me a bit emotional,” Dr. Malcolm said of the lynching museum. “I had to go sit on the bus to compose myself. It is hard to believe the violence that has happened in this country.”
Sharing experiences like these with her fellow 1199 retirees has also inspired Dr. Malcolm to become more involved in political action. Last year, she joined union phone banks to get out the vote during the critical state election that returned Georgia Reverend Raphael Warnock to the U.S. Senate and helped secure the Democratic Party’s majority in that body. Dr. Malcolm also took part in 1199 phone-banking for Stacey Abrams, during her second bid to become Georgia’s governor.
“Right now, I wish I had done more with the union when I was in New York because I am enjoying it,” she says. “I got so much from the union. Now I want to give back.”
Recalling her long career in New York, Dr. Malcom adds, “I came to New York to get an education. I got the job at Montefiore and started looking into going to Long Island University.
While I was completing the prerequisites to get in, I realized I could not afford to stop working and go to school full-time and maintain a house. I decided I had to do something because I was not going to come to America and not get the education I came for.”
With the help of 1199’s Training and Upgrading Fund (TUF), Dr. Malcom was able to study nursing and find a parttime job teaching pharmacology. She discovered the Union had programs that would not only pay for her tuition — but also give her a stipend to help with other expenses. The TUF programs allowed Dr. Malcom to finish her prerequisites at Lehman College and to earn her nursing degree from Bronx Community College.
Thanks to an 1199 Funds arrangement with employers, Dr. Malcolm was able reduce her work schedule to three-days-a-week while she was studying. “When I started school I was a bit older than the other students, so I had to work harder,” she says. “I woke up a lot of mornings at the table with a book open in front of me.”
And that’s not all. Dr. Malcolm says her 1199 benefits also paid for tutors to help her prepare for the NCLEX-RN exam. Another 1199 benefit program helped her buy her first home. Even her son, Vernon, benefited from a Joseph Tauber Scholarship, which enabled him to attend Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. He is now a doctor practicing in Jamaica.
Dr. Malcolm went on to earn Master’s and Doctorate degrees in nursing practice. She also taught nursing at Molloy University on Long Island.
“There is no way I could have failed with all the help I got from the union,” Dr. Malcolm says. “I am indebted to 1199 because they gave me opportunities, and it made all the difference."